For LGBTQ+ children and young people, connecting and sharing online can be a vital way to interact with peers, educate themselves and find solutions to issues that friends or family may not understand. However, there are also areas of risk for young people within the LGBTQ+ community when interacting online.
Life on social media is an important part of growing up today, and for LGBTQ+ children and young people, it can often be a lifeline. Connections are really helpful for those who want to educate themselves on their gender identity or their sexual or romantic orientation or discover friends and connections who are in the same position. It can also be a way to affirm they are not alone and there are other people thinking about the same things they are.
There are many benefits for LGBTQ+ children and young people in forging relationships within online communities including:
We know that there are risks and challenges that go hand in hand with the benefits of existing in online spaces. These can include:
The threat of being exposed to dangerous or harmful hate speech online increases exponentially for transgender people, with 1.5 million transphobic tweets published over the course of a three and a half year period. With the threat of witnessing hate speech comes the added threat of transphobic cyberbullying (bullying based on prejudice or negative attitudes, views, or beliefs about trans people). A culture of transphobia online can mean some people feel emboldened to harass, bully or discriminate against trans people, so young trans people might be especially at risk of transphobic cyberbullying. This can potentially have harmful effects on mental wellbeing and self-image.
It is important to be aware that:
The primary challenge for all parents is to work out how your child can enjoy the benefits of social media and connect online, whilst protecting them from the risks that may lead to harm. This is especially important for children and young people exploring their sexuality because of the additional challenges that you may come across. These can include:
There are a few things to consider when approaching your child about their internet use, and when taking steps to protect their wellbeing:
Social media has become a part of growing up. Although there are many clear benefits to connecting and sharing with others online, especially for minority groups of children and young people, there are some things that can be done to protect them from the risks outlined in this resource.
Opening a conversation with them about social media use is the best way to start communicating about what they should be aware of, what you expect from each other to help them stay safe online.
Conversations to have
Things to remember
See related advice and practical tips to support children online: